By Emily Clingman-Johnson
When I pulled up to the rows of parked cars in the dirt-covered parking lot, I saw Frisbees in the air. Music was blaring from cars. People were mingling in groups, laughing, sitting on lawn chairs, and putting on glowsticks. The sun was setting over the mountains and the evening’s excitement waxed with the rising moon.
No, I wasn’t at Red Rocks for this summer’s Panic show. I wasn’t at a concert at all: I was at the drive-in move theater in Fort Collins on a Thursday night.
Outdoor movies are fun, and lucky for us, Fort Collins has two places to catch a flick under the stars.
One place is The Holiday Twin, a two-screen drive-in theater at the foothills close to where Drake Road intersects Overland Trail. Open seven nights a week, moviegoers can catch a double feature for six bucks. It’s kind of a big deal, as there are less than ten drive-in theaters left in Colorado, which had 61 open from the 1950’s through the ‘70s.
Wesley Webb, owner of the Holiday Twin since 1979, has seen the theater’s ups and downs, with slow business or frequent management turnovers. Last year, however, his wife, Stephanie, said she wanted to keep the business running “forever.” So Webb decided to give it an overhaul with new paint and a new snack bar. He also took over the management himself.
“I’ve never had a better year of business,” Webb said.
He’s had offers on the 43-acre piece of property the theater sits on, and Webb claims he could live quite comfortably for several years if he sold the theater. He hasn’t budged, however.
It’s a family affair. His son runs the projectors. His wife runs the snack bar. It’s just too much fun, according to Webb. And, it’s been voted the best attraction in Fort Collins by TripAdvisor, a popular online travel site.
On some nights, there are as many as 800 cars parked in front of the theater screens. The Twin’s Facebook page has more than 9,000 fans. Two fans in particular have been going to the Holiday Twin once a week for at least four years.
“We work a lot,” said Stephen Curtis, a local cook, “It’s our date night.”
Curtis and his wife, Melissa, a waitress, were married just this summer. They bring lots of blankets, open up their hatchback to the Subaru and get cozy together. For the newlyweds, it’s easy romance.
One local man, Bryan Simpson, rode his bike past the Holiday Twin several years ago while movies were playing.
“I thought it was way cool,” he remembered. “Except for the cars.”
Right around the same time, Simpson, the Media Relations Director at New Belgium Brewing Company, was approached by Open Air Cinema about a movie project idea in Boulder. That partnership didn’t pan out, but it gave Simpson an idea: The New Belgium Bike-In Cinema.
Eight years later, outdoor movies at the brewery have become a popular late-summer event in the Fort.
“We’re so proud of its popularity,” said Simpson. “It just can’t happen without the people.”
Starting August 18, New Belgium will host six free, weekly outdoor movies. With the portable movie screen cleverly located in its parking lot, you have to ride your bike there. Anywhere between 200 and 1,000 people show up each week, parking their bicycles along the perimeter of the brewery. They bring lawn chairs or blankets and relax to a movie and a New Belgium beer.
“It’s so much fun sitting outside at night,” Simpson said. “It’s even more cool after the show to see hundreds of bike lights ride off with their bells ringing.”
Simpson explained the reasoning behind starting the Bike-In Cinema later in the summer.
“We like the townie feel when the students are gone,” he said, “But we also like them to come out for a few movies when they get back.”
So, if you haven’t done so already, grab your bike or grab your keys, call some friends and watch an outdoor movie this summer!
New Belgium’s Bike-In Cinema runs every Thursday from August 18-September 22. The movies are free of charge, but proceeds from beer sales benefit Wolverine Farm Publishing and Bike Fort Collins, so sip some brews while you’re there. It’s located at 500 Linden Street. For a schedule and more information go to newbelgium.com/events/bike-in-cinema.
The Holiday Twin shows two double features seven nights a week. The Box Office opens at 6:30pm Friday-Saturday and 7:30pm Sunday-Thursday. Shows start at dusk. It’s located at 2206 South Overland Trail. For a movie schedule and full snack bar menu, visit holidaytwindrivein.com.